Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Blast from the Past

He was a Jew, but not a religious one. We shared an apartment for two or three months in the fall of 1969. We got on well and he confided in me that he was being investigated by the RCMP for, possibly, illegal things he was doing with his numismatics business; he confessed that what he and his business partner were up to was, in fact, illegal. I listened to what he told me, but expressed no moral judgment about his affairs. That was his business, not mine.

He soon moved away to Montreal. Neither of us made any effort to stay in touch. And I did not hear from him for 37 years, although I did occasionally hear about him from his younger brother: that he’d holidayed in Denmark, that he’d bested his brother in a real estate deal, and so on.

Then out of the blue, I got an email from him. He made plain his surprise on hearing that I was a diehard Holocaust revisionist. He hoped this did not also mean I was an anti-Semite, anti-Semites being a tribe of ignorant, superstitious folk. He reminded me his father was an Auschwitz survivor. I had not forgotten. But then, I also remembered his bemused smile as he recounted the time his father had run out on his creditors.

He told me that the friends in our old circle, who knew something of my revisionist activism, reckoned I must be “nuts.” He seemed taken aback by the diehard nature of this activism and wondered why I had not instead devoted myself to ridding our world of one or more of the social ills that afflict it. He provided me with a checklist of some of the usual problems: hunger, poverty, disease, substance abuse, war. Old Albert (let’s call him) sounded quite moralistic.

What a difference in tone between this older man and the younger man I once knew, the amoral hedonist who looked to “score” in shady business deals, and was not above delivering a racist comment or two about Arabs and others. It was obvious that he’d grown in the intervening years.

He said he had fond memories of me, that he remembered me as likeable, and again owed to feeling perplexed by my life choices. Then he challenged me to a debate on the Holocaust. Clearly, he was eager to get engaged in one.

That was nearly three years ago. I haven’t yet replied to his invitation. I don’t know if I ever will. I’m so busy, you see, with my charities and what-not.

That said, Albert did wish me well; and, of course, I wish him well, too.

1 comment:

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